Is This Relationship Healthy? Ten Signs of Emotionally Healthy Relationships
Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT
Many people don’t understand what an emotionally healthy or mature romantic relationship looks like. As a result, they get into unhealthy relationships, asking themselves, “Why are we having so many problems?” There is no question that the key to long-term relationship success depends on how healthy the relationship is emotionally. My hope is that the following ten points will serve as a check list to help you create a healthy and mature emotional relationship. If you are presently in a relationship, evaluate each of the ten points on a scale from 1 to 10.
- They keep things positive.
Emotionally mature couples maintain what relationship expert Dr. Jon Gottman calls “consistent positive override”—meaning that the emotional color of their relationship is mostly positive. Emotionally mature couples constantly monitor the emotional quality of their relationship, and if they go into a negative place, they have the skills to deal with what’s going on and get back to a positive place. They never stay in a negative emotional place very long and are certainly back on track within 24 hours.
- They have complete trust in each other.
Emotionally mature couples trust each other completely. There is no doubt in either person’s mind that the other person can be trusted in every way and can be relied upon. They trust each other with their feelings, needs, money, safety, possessions, boundaries with others, and judgment. Each knows the other person has his back.
- They are open, honest, and vulnerable with each other.
Emotionally mature couples are not afraid to share how they feel with and about each other. They feel safe and are not afraid of being shamed, rejected, or emotionally punished for expressing themselves. As a result of being emotionally open, they experience closeness and a high level of intimacy.
- They provide a relational home for each other’s feelings.
Emotionally healthy couples feel safe with each other because they provide what we call a “relational home” for each other’s feelings and perceptions. They are especially skilled at listening to each other without being reactive or interrupting each other. They are able to give each other a complete hearing. As a result, their disagreements never escalate into ugly fights, never turn spouses into bitter enemies.
- They are assertive.
Emotionally healthy couples communicate in an assertive manner. They are direct and clear in letting each other know what they need because they are not ashamed of their needs. They therefore avoid getting into passive-aggressive communication patterns.
- They are emotionally responsible.
Emotionally mature people take full ownership and responsibility for their feelings and don’t blame others for “causing” them to feel a certain way. They can tolerate intense and uncomfortable emotional states and don’t dismiss, numb, or lie to themselves about how they feel. Instead of being afraid of their feelings, they are curious about them and process them in order to learn and grow from them. Living an emotionally responsible life helps them to feel good about themselves which creates positive energy between them.
- They are good problem solvers.
Emotionally healthy couples solve the problems they can and accept the ones they can’t. They are able to consistently reach win-win solutions because they understand the importance of being collaborative as opposed to being adversarial. They also know the signs of escalation and know when to call a time-out so as not to escalate, returning to the conversation at another time when they are both calmer. As a result, they maintain a constant state of peace.
- They build each other up.
Emotionally healthy couples are guardians of each other’s self-esteem. They look for ways to encourage each other to become the best person he or she can be. They identify each other with their virtues while accepting their faults. They are not threatened by each other’s successes and take pleasure in each other’s accomplishments. They avoid talking in a disrespectful way to each other and don’t curse at each other, threaten, or shame each other. They are especially careful to talk positively about each other in social settings, never putting the other down or making “well-meaning” jokes about each other. They are very careful not to push each other’s buttons.
- They laugh, have fun, and are playful.
Having a good sense of humor is sign of emotional maturity. While emotionally healthy couples, are serious about life and taking care of life’s responsibilities, they know how to chill, relax, and have a good time with each other. They know laughter is life’s best medicine because humor creates perspective and perspective makes life flow more smoothly. When things get tense, they know how to use humor to lighten the stress rather than becoming overwhelmed and depressed.
- They are committed to personal growth and character refinement.
Emotionally healthy couples are always trying to become better people. There is a well-known Jewish principle which says, If you’re not moving up you’re going down. There is no such thing as status quo in human nature. Therefore, each person is committed to becoming the best version of themselves by working to refine their character. They understand that the most important of all character traits is kindness. As a result of their commitment to self-improvement, they are consistently upgrading themselves, giving each other the gift of a better version of themselves which results in greater respect, admiration, and love.